Guest Post : TUSK PHOTO - Wildlife Photography Tours & Safaris

Great article from TUSK PHOTO who offer amazing wildlife photography tours and safaris mainly in Africa but also in North & South America on gearing up for wildlife photography.. one of the most important of which is, in my own humble opinion, in the last section mentioned in their great infographic below... "hire a LOCAL guide"..!

This one tip can in itself make or break an expensive trip..

Firstly... local guides with local knowledge can save you time hunting around for the wildlife you are there to photograph... they know the animals and their behaviours, they know the area and can take you to places you are most likely to see things, basically.. they can put you in the right place at the right time..!

Secondly and very importantly they can keep you safe..! It is not only from the animals that you could potentially be in danger from.. the weather and the terrain can be dangerous too and local guides will know when it is safe to venture out and where it is safe to venture out..!

Have fun planning.. gearing up and getting out there..! Enjoy and be safe..!

Meteora & Pindos Landscape Photography Workshop 2016 - Part 2 - Pindos

Following our second morning shooting the dawn breaking over the monasteries of Meteora we set off on the 3 hour scenic route to the next location of our 7 day landscape photography workshop in Greece.. a little village in the heart of the Pindos Mountains called Monodendri.

The late departure meant we only had time for a couple of stops along the way for the briefest of photo opportunities, such as these panoramics hastily put together at the Aoos Springs Lake..

aoos springs lake photographed during our landscape photography workshop to meteora and the pindos mountains in greece

aoos springs lake photographed during our landscape photography workshop to meteora and the pindos mountains in greece

mountain view from aoos springs lake photographed during our landscape photography workshop to meteora and the pindos mountains in greece

mountain view from aoos springs lake photographed during our landscape photography workshop to meteora and the pindos mountains in greece

After our early morning pre-dawn start and our meandering drive over the mountains to the next location of our 7 day landscape photography workshop to the heart of Greece... we were quite tired and so opted for an early night.. following as usual a fabulous meal at a local taverna of bean soup and goat stew.!

Next morning saw us up early again and off to spend the day practicing our long exposure photography at a small and very narrow river canyon where the water is crystalline and falls through a series of small waterfalls cutting its way through the limestone rock... soothing and smoothing the rough hewn stone in it's path... iPhone to hand again for some "behind-the-scenes" photos.... and a final image...

Small river canyon photographed during our landscape photography workshop to meteora and the pindos mountains in greece

Small river canyon photographed during our landscape photography workshop to meteora and the pindos mountains in greece

Both a good thing and a frustrating thing about shooting during the winter months is the shortness of the days... good because dawn is that little bit later allowing for a slightly longer sleep-in and bad because the few hours of daylight you do have are over so quick... especially when absorbed in taking long-exposure photos..! Six hours we spent in the canyon and it seemed to just fly... back to the hotel for a quick download and review then out to dinner again.. Lentil soup and oven cooked beef joint in tomato sauce..! yum..

Over the next few days we explored the region photographing the beautiful old stone bridges that linked the villages in bygone days before any roads existed...we explored one of the cleanest rivers in Europe.. the Voidomatis River... and its crystal turquoise water..

we visited an ancient forest and photographed the imposing buttress towers of Mount Tymfis at sunset watching the changing colours reflect over the massif...

...and on our final day we spent the entire day at a magical location... well off the beaten track.. very unknown... and very beautiful...

and just a few of the final images from this wonderful place...

After that finalé it was time to go home... new friends made... wonderful places visited... fab photos made... until next year..!

Join me in 2017 on our next landscape photography tour and workshop to Meteora and the Pindos Mountains in Greece and I'll take you there..!

g

Meteora & Pindos Photo Workshop/Tour 2016 - Part 1 - Meteora

In the brief respite between Christmas and New Year, I thought I'd write up the trip reports from our trips last month to Meteora & Pindos for a landscape photography workshop and to Kerkini for our winter birds photography tour... so here we go...!

Pick up from Thessaloniki airport went smoothly with no delayed flights or cancellations which meant we could get going with our trip on time..! a 3 hour drive later and we arrived under the cover of darkness at our hotel in the village of Kastraki. Despite the darkness of the night, the hulking shadows of the Meteora dolomites could still be discerned against the ink black sky which gave us a hint of the views which we would be enjoying the following morning,

A very cold 6am rise next morning and still the dark of winter cloaked the mountains for our 15 minute drive up to the first sunrise location... by the time we had driven up and scrambled over the precarious rocks to start setting up tripods and cameras, the slimmest light of dawn had begun to sneak over the horizon.

George assisting a guest as dawn spread over the horizon as we set up for our first sunrise shoot at the Meteora during our autumn landscape photography workshop to Meteora & Pindos in Greece

George assisting a guest as dawn spread over the horizon as we set up for our first sunrise shoot at the Meteora during our autumn landscape photography workshop to Meteora & Pindos in Greece

The sunrise shoot at Meteora is always a challenging one as the sun rises directly behind the Monasteries meaning multiple exposures to capture the beauty of the valley and monasteries as well as the breaking dawn sky... thanks to Tam for the above pic she took of me on her iPhone assisting Ciaran to set up for the shoot.

We were so lucky with the sunrise shoots as on both mornings we had sun and on both mornings the mist came rolling through the valley to grant us a fantastic opportunity to photograph the monasteries "floating" in the clouds...

Cloud and mist roll through the valley beneath the Meteora during the first sunrise on our landscape photography workshop to Meteora and Pindos Mountains in Greece.

Cloud and mist roll through the valley beneath the Meteora during the first sunrise on our landscape photography workshop to Meteora and Pindos Mountains in Greece.

Dawn over the monasteries was followed by a return to the hotel for a well deserved and hearty breakfast and gave us the opportunity to shake off the cold from the morning's outing... wasn't long though before we were out again and up the mountain once more to photograph some of the other monasteries...

Another panoramic taken this time on my own iPhone.. Tam & Ciaran photographing one of the monasteries of the Meteora perched seemingly impossibly on a dolomite.. during our Landscape Photography workshop to Meteora and Pindos mountains in Greece, 2016;

Another panoramic taken this time on my own iPhone.. Tam & Ciaran photographing one of the monasteries of the Meteora perched seemingly impossibly on a dolomite.. during our Landscape Photography workshop to Meteora and Pindos mountains in Greece, 2016;

After a brief stop for an amazing lunch in the village below (no soggy sandwiches on our tours..!) we were back up the mountain for a third time in the day... this time to catch the sunset... which is always spectacular at Meteora... I've been coming here for many years and have yet to be disappointed.. somehow Meteora is such a mystical and magical place and always seems to deliver what I like to call, "a God moment"...

Photographing sunset over the Meteora monasteries during our Landscape Photography Workshop to Meteora and the Pindos Mountains in Greece, 2016;

Photographing sunset over the Meteora monasteries during our Landscape Photography Workshop to Meteora and the Pindos Mountains in Greece, 2016;

Magical and mystical Meteora... during our Landscape Photography Workshop to Meteora and the Pindos Mountains in Greece, 2016;

Magical and mystical Meteora... during our Landscape Photography Workshop to Meteora and the Pindos Mountains in Greece, 2016;

...and Tam even found time to "Zen" out a little...

Tam's Zen moment watching the sun set over the monasteries of the Meteora... during our Landscape Photography workshop to Meteora and the Pindos Mountains in Greece, 2016;

Tam's Zen moment watching the sun set over the monasteries of the Meteora... during our Landscape Photography workshop to Meteora and the Pindos Mountains in Greece, 2016;

A very successful first day at Meteora..! ....evening back at the hotel and after yet another amazing meal in the village and a quick review of the day's images the team was enthused and thirsty for more.. so a decision was taken to delay the drive to Pindos by a couple of hours the next day and spend the next morning up at Meteora again but this time from a different vantage point with the sun behind us... once again the Gods did not diappoint... the sun came out, the mists rolled in, and fab photos were made..!

Back down to the hotel again after another very satisfying morning.. full Greek breakfast and onward to the Pindos Mountains....!

Lake Kerkini - Baby Birds 2016

To begin with.. an apology.. for the lack of recent posts and I can only plead guilty to trying to do too many things and too many projects to have the time to keep this blog going too..! Hopefully things will change a little over the coming winter months with more news and articles...

So.. our Baby Birds trip in June this year at Lake Kerkini was really fun.. fab weather (not unusual for this time of year in Greece..!) and some fab sightings.. including a family of Coypu.. 2 adults and their 2 little ones.. who posed quite oblivious to our presence on an algae covered pond ( well done all for your silent stalking skills..!)

Highlights of the trip were our canoe trips into the lake, up the Strymonas River and into the heart of the submerged forest.. we had only planned on doing this the once, but such was the enthusiasm after the first trip that we arranged a second trip to concentrate more on one area of the forest where the Spoonbills had their nursery... we also managed to photograph Grey Herons, Glossy Ibis, Night Herons, White Pelicans, Dalmatian Pelicans and many others....

A lot of fun was had photographing Little Bitterns down the many canals surrounding Lake Kerkini.. these acrobatic little birds are beautiful and difficult to spot in amongst the thick reed beds but fun to observe them as they would stalk through looking for unwary frogs and fish..

We were also lucky to spot and photograaph.. though he only gave us the briefest of views.. a stunning Purple Heron flying over the lily fields of Lake Kerkini...

Coming back from one of the 2 boat trips we made we were able to witness flocks of cormorants heading to a feeding frenzy.. and as they passed us with the sun behind we were able to get beautiful shots of them in lines as they flew low over the lake...

Best was saved till last.. with a visit to wonderful location which held nesting Kestrels.. nesting Rollers and nesting Little Owls.. unfortunately we could only position our hide for one of the species and we chose the very charming Little Owls.. though we did get a couple of nice shots of a Roller who was getting a little concerned at the ever more adventurous Little Owls who had almost fully fledged and were practicing their flying skills near his nest...

And that was on the last day of our trip... my thanks to my guests who I know had a fab time and came away with some great images and hopefully some happy memories.. hope to see you again soon..!

best wishes - and check out our trips to Lake Kerkini over the winter.. especially fab are the Purely Pelicans trips in Jan/Feb 2017 to photograph the resident Dalmatian Pelicans in their glorious full breeding plummage... have a look at some of the images from last year... link below.

all the best

George

Trip Report - Purely Pelicans 2015

So.. at last I've been able to find the time to write this trip report after a very busy last few weeks! 

We had two "Purely Pelicans" trips to Lake Kerkini over the last January weekend and the first February weekend to photograph the resident Dalmatian Pelicans in the main but also to take a quick tour of the lake and surrounds.

Let me start by saying thank you to all the participants who made it very enjoyable for me as a guide/tutor and I think I'm ok in saying that a good time was had by all...!

So first... the Pelicans..!

The weather this year at Lake Kerkini (and in fact all across Europe it seems) was very changeable.. warmer than usual conditions and a lot of rain meant the lake level was a lot higher than it has been at the same time in previous years... and in fact after one night of severe rain and melting snow.. the Strymonas River, (which feeds the lake) unfortunately broke its banks flooding a large part of the delta and submerged forest... this made it slightly more challenging both to see and photograph not just the Pelicans but the rest of the abundant wildlife too.

That being said, and I'm sure you will agree, the photos we were able to create were worth both the challenge and the effort...! 

Aside from the Pelicans which are always such a joy to see and photograph we were able to see many other birds and even mammal and amphibian wildlife... including a little fox, an otter and two wildcats. We were also witness to a lot of toads also coming into their season and enjoying it.. if you take my meaning..!

As far as other bird species, the most notable which we were able to photograph as well as spot are as per the list at the bottom of the page..

In addition to our efforts in photographing the wildlife of Lake Kerkini.. every morning saw us rising at 6:30am and heading out to the lake to try to capture the dawn.. and on one particular morning we were especially rewarded not only with a spectacular dawn but a spectacle of thousands of Cormorants and hundreds of Pelicans flying right across the sun and swarming over a school of fish in a feeding frenzy.

We also found the opportunity for a quick time-lapse tutorial one glorious afternoon both at Livadia Harbour and for a sunset shoot from Mandraki Harbour (video clips below), in addition.. after the river broke and the flamingos all gathered into one location, we were also able to shoot some panoramics and have a quick tutorial that same evening on "stitching" them together... the results of which you can also see below.

So before I get too verbose... here are some pics of the other species we were able to photograph...

 

Panoramic of Flamingos on Lake Kerkini with the backdrop of the 2000m+ snow covered peaks Mt Belles... 

 

Time lapse videos -  1st of clouds moving over Mt Belles and 2nd of sunset from Mandraki Harbour...

 

List of birds we spotted and photographed.. 40 species.. not bad for a 3 day excursion..!

Birds of Prey:

  • Greater Spotted Eagle (Aquila clanga) - we saw several over the forest both perched and flying eying up the huge flocks of Shelduck and Coot though one in particular did us the favour of perching right near the embankment giving us excellent views and a fantastic photo opportunity;
  • Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) - we were exceptionally lucky with this one.. a 1st winter juvenile who was absolutely beautiful and posed well for us in a tree stand not 50m from the jeep;
  • Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo) - as usual these guys were around the lake in great numbers.. quite easy to spot and photograph;
  • Common Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) - only two spotted on this trip though one posed beautifully for us;
  • Northern Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis) - only one spotted.. at first, by the way he was perched, we mistook him for yet another buzzard but a closer inspection through the lens revealed his identity;
  • Marsh Harrier (Circus Aeruginosus) - only 1 of these chaps too spotted this year whereas in previous years they appeared more abundant;

Birds of the Lake:

  • Common Crane (Grus grus) - there is currently a total population on the lake of 25 of these lovely birds and we were fortunate enough to spot 13 in of them which flew almost directly over our heads in two groups;
  • Eurasian Spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia) - 20
  • Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna)- in their thousands
  • Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus) - in their thousands
  • Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula) - 1 pair
  • Eurasian Teal (Anas crecca) - in their hundreds
  • Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta) - 12
  • Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus) - in their hundreds
  • Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus) - many
  • Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis) - many
  • Coot (Fulica atra) - in their thousands
  • Pochard (Aythya ferina) - in their thousands
  • White-fronted Geese (Anser albifrons) - over 200
  • Greylag Geese (Anser anser) - over 100
  • Mute Swan (Cygnus olor) - 30
  • Bewick's/Tundra Swans (Cygnus columbianus) - 8
  • Pied Wagtail (Motacilla alba) - 8
  • Kinfisher (Alcedo atthis) - 4
  • Black Stork (Ciconia nigra) - 1
  • Great Egret (Ardea alba) - many
  • Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) - 6
  • Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) - many
  • Cormorants (Phalacrocorax carbo) - in their thousands
  • Pygmy cormorants (Phalacrocorax pygmeus)- hundreds
  • Black-headed Gulls (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) - hundreds

Woodland Birds:

  • Goldcrest (Regulus regulus) - 6
  • Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis)  - many
  • Hawfinch (Coccothraustes coccothraustes)-  6
  • Great Grey Shrike (Lanius excubitor) - 2
  • Grey-headed Woodpecker (Picus canus) - 1
  • Green Woodpecker (Picus viridis) - 1
  • Great Spotted Woodpecker - (Dendrocopos major) - 2
  • Syrian Woodpecker (Dendrocopos syriacus) - 1
  • Lesser Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos minor) - 1pair 

Others, of which we did not keep a count included.. Jays, Collared Doves, Hooded Crows, Tree Sparrows, Chaffinch, Magpies and other such more common species.